JEEP has confirmed it will unleash a partial electric version of its JL Wrangler, and that it will be more capable than the vehicles fitted only with an internal combustion engine.
In revealing the all-new Wrangler at the 2017 Los Angeles Motor Show, Jeep boss Mike Manley made the surprise announcement that “a full plug-in electric Jeep Wrangler will be available in 2020, furthering our commitment to all those who value responsible, sustainable enjoyment of the great outdoors and, very importantly, future-proofing this Wrangler for generations to come”.
While Manley didn’t specifically refer to the new model as a hybrid, he later referenced a petrol engine, which would logically be a version of the new 201kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo that won’t initially be offered on Wranglers in Australia.
Manley also confirmed the addition of an electric motor would be used to further the capability of Jeep’s most capable model. “To me it makes a lot of sense for us to have [electric motors] in our vehicles to enhance our capability with the added benefit of the fuel economy enhancement,” he told 4X4 Australia.
“So then the only thing really is about how do you want to calibrate it … for max fuel economy … or for torque deployment.” Clearly off-road capability and the smooth and easy-to-regulate power delivery of an electric motor is being used to boost the off-road nous of the Wrangler.
“The most important thing for us is to make sure we balance the gas engine in the hybrid to deliver the torque that we need at the time that we need it.” While he wouldn’t go into details – refusing to stipulate whether the electric motor would work on one axle, for example, as it does in some SUVs – he did add that Jeep engineers “have struck a really good balance”.
The hybrid system was designed from the outset for the JL Wrangler architecture, which uses many aluminium body panels (Australian cars, however, get steel bonnets to meet local pedestrian protection regulations). He also hinted that it would be offered on two- and four-door variants.
"Obviously we want to make sure whenever you’re packaging something like that, the batteries are unobtrusive, it doesn’t detract from what the vehicle stands for and that, obviously, is capability. So, again, that was an important consideration for us.”
As for leveraging the electric technology currently deep in development for the Wrangler, Manley said it is certain. “It’s inevitable that Jeep is going to go through more electrification, particularly as you get into the 20s. But you will see more electrification.
One of the things we really wanted to do was to future proof this vehicle; it’s the icon of the brand. As we get into the 20s, depending on which region you’re in, obviously the fuel economy and emissions get stricter and stricter.”
With the JL Wranger hybrid due in 2020 it’s not yet known whether it will be offered in Australia, something that could come down to future emissions targets and regulations, which are yet to be set.